The Ten Most Essential Pop Albums of 2014 So Far
2013 was a great year for pop music. It brought the epic returns of pop superstars like Lady Gaga, who released her explorative dance album ARTPOP, and Justin Timberlake, who made his long-awaited return to music with The 20/20 Experience. A talented batch of newcomers arose, led by HAIM with the release of their sensational-debut Days Are Gone, and rising names like Lorde, Charli XCX, Ariana Grande, and Sky Ferreira following with their equally-successful debuts. It’s hard to forget that 2013 is also the year Miley Cyrus shocked millions with her unrelenting twerk, crazy outfits, and the daring and transformative, Bangerz–arguably her best musical work to date. And then there was that little gem from Beyoncé–the unexpected and masterful, visual album Beyoncé, taking the world by storm and stealing top spots on best albums lists right at the end of 2013.
Halfway through 2014, the question remains: What releases will become pop music's cornerstones this year? This year will bring a handful of much-anticipated comebacks, with the speculated return of pop superstars Rihanna and Adele. But it could also be a year of more successful debuts. Bollywood star, turned pop singer, Priyanka Chopra, and emerging girl group, Fifth Harmony are both set to release their debuts this year. So to get you excited for what should be another year of outstanding pop music, here’s our list of the 10 essential pop albums of 2014 so far. Some are ready for you to devour, others are are the horizon.
Click through the list above and let us know which albums you're hyped about on Twitter.
Rihanna fans, rejoice! After a much-needed break from the studio this year, Rihanna is working on an album, or possibly two, to be released in 2014. The first, and definite, is a concept album for Dreamworks Animation film, Home, in which Rihanna will also voice a main character.
As for the possible follow-up to her 2012 Unapologetic album, Rihanna is reportedly working with Nicky Romero and David Guetta on some new material. The title and album release date has yet to be confirmed, but we’re still excited for any form of new music from Rihanna this year. In the meantime, take a listen to Rihanna’s latest track with Shakira, “Can’t Remember To Forget You.”
Rumors that British songstress Adele is working on a new album are flying, and fans finally have some promising updates. World Music Awards announced on Twitter that the songstress will go on tour next year after the release of her new album. It is aptly titled 25. Further confirmation came from Adele herself in early May, when she tweeted, “Bye bye 25…See you again later in the year.” Cryptic, but we’ll take it!
Although there is no official 25 release date yet, Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic confirmed writing songs with Adele for her third-studio album. He also calls it some of her best work yet. Wiz Khalifa and Phil Collins confirmed working with the singer. Whether those efforts will make it onto the album isn't certain. What is certain is Adele is one of the most successful musicians working today. She received unprecedented levels of success after the 2011 release of 21–a diamond-certified, international hit. Until Adele decides to release more of her music, you can listen to her latest, Academy-Award-winning track, “Skyfall.”
3. Frank Ocean
The rumors are true, R&B superstar, Frank Ocean is working on his hotly-anticipated sophomore album. Although his Bonnaroo performance this year did not include any new music, Ocean’s longtime-collaborator, Nabil shared some exciting news–telling Buzzfeed that Ocean’s latest work, “blows the sophomore-album myth out of the water.” And although there’s been no official word yet from Ocean about the name or release date of his second-studio album, there’s Tumblr photo evidence suggesting he's hard at work in the studio. We can’t wait to hear the follow-up to his impeccable debut album Channel Orange. It solidified Ocean’s career, earning him a GRAMMY for Best Urban Contemporary Album. You can listen to his latest track with Diplo, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon “Hero,” and stay tuned for Ocean’s sophomore take sometime this year.
Robyn followed up her critically acclaimed Body Talk series with a little help from one of her favorite collaborators. Last December, Robyn posted a picture on Instagram of herself and Norwegian-DJ duo Röyksopp–caption, “we are making music again.” So, of course, that got us beyond excited for new music from this Scandinavian collaborative, and the release does not disappoint. Their new mini album, Do It Again, is a spectacular, high-energy collision of pure pop bliss with an electronic edge. The album coincides with the duo's extensive, joint tour. Check out their tour dates here, and be sure to listen to their fiery title-track, “Do It Again.”
5. Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra, superstar actress and one of India's most high-profile celebrities, is crossing over in more ways than one. In 2013 she partnered with the NFL, became the face of Guess, and released her first single, "Exotic," featuring Pitbull with a fiery music video to boot. The soon-to-be pop sensation, is set to release her debut album this year. We can’t wait to see a full body of work from this truly global artist. Chopra is working with RedOne, music producer for artists like Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj. You can check out the video for her latest track, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” above, and get to know Priyanka in Part I, Part II, and Part III of our Icons series.
Singer-songwriter, Sia is finally releasing her own music this year, and it’s already received critical praise. She released the first single, “Chandelier” in March, and the anthemic, pop ballad was reportedly made for Beyoncé or Rihanna, but Sia thankfully saved it for herself. The single is already a top-20 hit, and the music video is one of the best we’ve seen this year. And as for the rest of her album, which dropped May 29–1000 Forms of Fear is already earning rave reviews and is set to be Sia’s first number-one album.You can watch the video for “Chandelier” above and download 1000 Forms of Fear on iTunes here.
7. Lea Michele
Glee-TV actress and Broadway star, Lea Michele has finally crossed over to the pop-music world with the release of her debut album, Louder. A very meaningful body of work for Michele, she used this album to help process the untimely death of boyfriend and former Glee co-star, Cory Monteith. The last track on the album, “If You Say So,” which was actually co-written by Sia, is a touching ballad from Michele that you can listen to below. You can buy Michele’s full-debut album on iTunes, and check out her video for “On My Way” above.
8. Ed Sheeran
British singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran released the follow-up to his hit-debut album, +, this year, and it’s lived up to all the hype. The sophomore album, aptly named X, dropped June 23, and the first single, “Sing” is already a massive hit, contending as one of the songs of summer this year. Produced by Pharrell, “Sing” brings us a totally new sound from Sheeran with its pop, infused with R&B, beat. Check out the video for Pharrell-influenced track above, and download X off of iTunes here.
9. Lykke Li
Inventive-Swedish singer, Lykke Li released her latest album I Never Learn May 5. Known for her electronic, indie-pop sound, I Never Learn is the third installment in her album trilogy. Li claims this new album explores an intense period of her life with the difficult themes of being a woman in her 20s. Wanting to distinguish herself from conventional pop artists today, I Never Learn, is an impressive and refreshing final installment in the Li musical trilogy. You can watch the music video for the first single, “No Rest For The Wicked” above.
10. Fifth Harmony
If you’re unfamiliar with American girl group, Fifth Harmony, let us get you caught up. The X-Factor alumnae, are working on a debut album and it’s expected to drop sometime this fall. According to Billboard their album will have “a new, more urban sound,” but we’re sure their debut will please their already strong fan base, affectionately known as “Harmonizers.” And it should give these talented singers a wider listening base, especially due to the success of their first EP, Better Together, which debuted at number two on iTunes album charts. And their hit single “Miss Movin’ On,” made this talented quintet the first, U.S. X-Factor alumnae to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. So while we wait for their promising debut, check out Fifth Harmony’s latest single, “BO$$.”
July 24, 2014 via Pepsi